Put up or shut up.

That, in slang that you're not likely to hear Gov. Charles S. Robb use, is essentially what he's telling nervous Democrats who have been bemoaning their party's chances in next year's statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

If those Democrats don't like the current candidates, they should have the "backbone" to run themselves, Robb suggested, sometimes gripping his lectern in angry frustration at a news conference last week.

Robb, playing an unusual public role as the party's leader, said he was tired of Democrats worrying about the politics of this candidate or the race or sex of that candidate, and tired of the Democrats playing into the hands of overly eager news media ready to write about it.

Robb said he has encouraged several potential candidates, saying he would publicly defend them against any unfair charges of racism or sexism if they announce.

But he declined to say which politicians have sought him out for such help.

The unanswered question is whether any Democrats will take him up on his suggestion. Robb has come under criticism by Democrats for failing in the past to exert enough leadership in the party's two losing bids for the U.S. Senate in 1982 and this year.

This time around, Robb was responding to mutterings from some white Democrats who, mostly privately, have been forecasting doom for a ticket that looks like it might include Sen. L. Douglas Wilder of Richmond, who is black and running unopposed so far for the party's lieutenant governor nomination.

The same Democrats have wrung their hands over the prospect that Lt. Gov. Richard J. Davis, considered by many to have a liberal image, may be the party's nominee for governor. Davis is opposed by state Attorney General Gerald L. Baliles of Richmond, who is scheduled to announce his candidacy officially Jan. 8, the day before the 1985 legislative session opens.

Even Mary Sue Terry, the conservative delegate from Southside Patrick County, is getting some grief for being a woman in her strong bid to be the party's nominee for attorney general.

A potential Davis-Wilder-Terry ticket has these nervous Democrats worried about a shrinking majority in the General Assembly, where Democrats control 65 of 100 seats. Maybe 10 seats could be lost if that ticket leads the ballot, they fret.

Robb indicated he hopes his press conference will at least embarrass the woe mongers into action or silence. "You can't beat somebody with nobody," Robb said.

Score one for Edie Harrison.

The former Democratic legislator from Norfolk last week finally got something of at least symbolic value out of her record-setting loss to Republican Sen. John W. Warner on Nov. 6.

Warner, responding to an issue that Harrison used effectively in the closing days of the campaign, announced last week that he has sold virtually all of his stocks, including those in defense-related industries.

Harrison, who was drubbed by Warner, 70 percent to 30 percent, had charged that Warner's stockholdings posed a potential conflict of interest because he is a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

(Warner is scheduled to become chairman in 1987 if Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater retires as expected and Republicans maintain control of the Senate in the 1986 elections.)

Harrison's charge, despite polls showing her 40 percentage points behind Warner at the time, clearly stung the first-term senator, and he promised to review his holdings after the election. He had about $350,000 in stocks out of a net worth of about $4 million, Warner said at the time.

Warner maintained that the issue unfairly attacked his credibility and said his victory showed the voters had not lost confidence in him.

Harrison had charged that there was potential conflict from Warner's acceptance of about $200,000 in contributions from defense-related industry political action committees.

The changes came just as there was growing national publicity over waste in the Pentagon contracting with such discoveries as hammers that cost $500. But Harrison's campaign, which went on to suffer the worst statewide loss in modern Virginia history, was never able to capitalize on the issue.

Badly underfunded, she could not mount a negative media campaign even after a poll showed the defense issue hurting Warner and after Warner acknowledged that voters were "hopping mad" over the waste issue.